#NativeVote18 Not just a political adCandidates are changing the very image of Native people on TV
By Mark Trahant
Indian Country Today
indiancountrymedianetwork.com Here’s one way that Native politicians have already won this election: Stereotypes are shattered every time a campaign commercial is produced and aired on television or distributed online. Native American images are mostly absent from commercial television and then when they do show up it’s the standard character list of drunks, beautiful maidens, stoic (or wise) warriors, and magical medicine men. As Jonathan Joss told Mashable a couple of years ago: “In my career, I have played a drunk, I have played a holy man, I’ve played an Indian on horseback … It hasn’t been until the last 15 years of my career that I’ve been able to wear a nice suit.” Joss played casino executive Ken Hotate in Parks and Recreation. That’s why political campaign commercials represent an entirely new discourse, one that gives viewers a richer, more complex account of contemporary Native people. “My full name is Tatuye Topa Najin Win,” Tatewin Means writes in an open letter to South Dakota voters. “I am Sisitonwan Dakota, Oglala Lakota, and Ihanktonwan Nakota. My mother is Peggy Phelps, she is Sisitonwan Dakota. My father is the late Russell Means, he is Oglala Lakota, and Ihanktonwan Nakota.” Means’ campaign commercial — and this must be a first — has two versions, one in Lakota and one in English. So far both are online. South Dakota does not have a primary for statewide races. Instead nominations will be decided at the Democratic Party convention starting June 15 in Sioux Falls.
Means’ campaign commercial — English Version
Means’ campaign commercial — Lakota VersionBut think about a general campaign and imagine the people of South Dakota consuming new kinds of Native American images. This is a story that will help them reimagine their own place in the world because they see a professional Native woman who is clearly qualified for the state’s top legal job. In fact, you could argue she’s more qualified because of life experiences and challenges that another South Dakotan could never have even imagined. Mind. Blown. Means eloquently makes her own case: “I am running for Attorney General because I know I am the best suited to lead South Dakota in a new direction. I graduated from Stanford University, the University of Minnesota Law School and earned a Masters from Oglala Lakota College.” Paulette Jordan is also changing the image of a Native American woman in Idaho. She is not using campaign videos in her bid for governor because she has something better, free media. There are dozens of stories by national media. The most recent was on ABC News that said the Coeur d’Alene tribal member “was birthed into politics” by a family legacy, “a quiet and peaceful ranch surrounded by wildlife, bluegrass, and elders who she describes as self-sufficient, full of wisdom and teachings that she has carried along with her in life.” This is an image Idaho is not used to seeing. Or as Jordan said in her ABC interview: “We’re breaking one barrier after another. I want to inspire (young women) to do more, feel emboldened to take on leadership roles. I want more young women to feel strong.”
Paulette Jordan also appeared on Fox NewsIndigeneity is a theme that transcends tribes, and regions, this political season. Kaniela Ing is running for the U.S. House from Hawaii. His commercial recalls his struggle as a young man working in the pineapple fields where he got his “first calluses” and “first paycheck.” In the commercial, Ing clearly articulates his Native identity and why it’s important to Hawaii. He also told Mic: “When you’re Hawaiian in politics, they tell you to avoid that part of your identity … Hawaiians aren’t reliable voters. Folks who are reliable voters do not really empathize with indigenous struggles here. So, they say, ‘Don’t use your Hawaiian name. Don’t talk about Hawaiian issues.’ But you know, I’m defying that. I’m gonna do me. Throughout my career, it’s been refreshing for a lot of folks that I’m not running from [my] identity.” New Mexico Republican Gavin Clarkson, Choctaw, does not have a produced video, but the campaign touts a video with his passionate defense of gun rights. He says the 2nd Amendment does not grant gun rights because it’s a God-given right to defend people and property. “Schools are soft targets, just like airplanes were soft targets. But after 9/11 we didn’t go on a nationwide hunt to ban box-cutters. We put armed air marshals on airplanes and there hasn’t been a single armed hijacking since we put armed air marshals on airplanes.” School shootings, he said, happen in gun-free zones. In the video Clarkson argues that teachers — and he is one — should be able to carry weapons to defend themselves and the students in the classroom. There are four candidates, including Clarkson, running in the GOP primary on June 5.
See who Gun Owners believe has the Energy to Empower New Mexico and protect their rights...Posted by Gavin Clarkson for Congress on Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Sharice Davids, Ho Chunk, is running for Congress in Kansas. She has two powerful ads. In the first, she partners with Chris Haulmark, a candidate for the Kansas state House, they have a conversation about inclusivity and politics using sign language. “Chris and I don’t look alike. Or talk alike,” Davids says in the ad. “But we both know what it’s like to fight through challenges. … And we’re both dedicated to changing and reshaping the conversations that are happening now throughout all levels of our government.” This ad makes you feel good about what’s possible. (It’s also a fundraising vehicle.) Today Davids is releasing a very different kind of ad — one that will be talked about nationwide. In this video, Davids, a former MMA fighter, is in the ring and ready to spar. “This is a tough place to be a woman,” she says. “I have had to fight like hell just to survive. And it’s clear that Trump and the Republicans in Washington don’t give a damn about anyone like me or anyone who doesn’t think like them.” This ad is about defiance. As Davids says: “One thing for sure, I won’t back down. Because progress is undefeated. We just need to fight for it.” Politics aside what these women and men are doing on television and social media is remarkable. They are redefining the very image of a Native American in a complex, multicultural society. This is a story missing from drama, comedy and even non-fiction. Yet it’s worth telling, a story about professionalism, shared values, and aspirations. Perhaps there should be a television show about that Mark Trahant is the editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter @TrahantReports. Note: The National Congress of American Indians is the owner of Indian Country Today and manages its business operations. The Indian Country Today editorial team operates independently as a digital journalism enterprise.
[VIDEO]: We have released our new ad! I’ve always fought for women like us: women of color, single moms, lesbians & transwomen, military families, & any woman who has ever been assaulted or harassed. Now is the time to be fierce and demand change. #nmpol #nm01 #ruready #befierce pic.twitter.com/KgCXrr2gc8— Deb Haaland (@Deb4CongressNM) May 26, 2018